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and provide us with your independent opinion as to that? i just think it is critical that we are aware of that and so i would like to get your reaction to that on the reverse side of what you do know or relative to intelligence, or what you don't know but have some concerns about not knowing. having something withheld from you that -- i don't feel like i have been given full information relative to what this committee ought to be aware of. >> thank you very much senator. the answer is yes, i absolutely do pledge to the best of my ability to provide my unvarnished views to the committee. as i said i commit to providing
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full, timely intelligence information to the committee at all times. i commit to being an advocate for providing as much information as possible to the committee within the executive branch. i wholeheartedly believe in the essential role the committee plays and that role as a partnership particularly when it comes to intelligence matters and national security, that there is no place for political considerations when it comes to counterterrorism in this fundamentally important mission of nctc. i would be a person who would view that role as a partnership of this committee and provide that information and i would be as i said in advocate for leaning as far forward as possible as my abilities allow him to providing that type of information. at all times to the committee and if i could maybe just address sort of a specific issue. i don't want the record to reflect that i view or had the understanding that there was a stealthy or secret effort to
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move detainees into the united states. i don't believe and i was not aware that was ever the case and i don't believe that ever was the case. in other words there was a decision to move to weaker detainees to the united states. there was an effort undertaken by the fbi and dhs to chime in who and where but i never was under any impression and i never believed that effort had progressed to the point that it was going to be a secret or stealthy move but rather that there is a time for disclosing that and was not something that was my decision to make. >> thank you for that answer. i just want to restate how critically important it is that we have a trust with each other. because we are dealing with matters of incredible importance to the safety and security of the american people, and if we lose that element of trust in terms of how we communicate with
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each other within the intelligence community and we have a responsibility to ensure that we live up to our part of the bargain on this also. and i'm hoping we can do that with you and i think that is perhaps a little warning sign here in terms of let's be diligent to make sure that level of trust exists in that level of sharing of information with the committee and us with you exists. without madam chairman i yield back my time. >> i could not agree more, senator. thank you. >> thank you madam chair and welcome mr. olsen. you certainly come to this position with an impressive array of credentials and i congratulate you and certainly senator conrad's accommodation
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certainly speaks volumes about what you represent and what you bring to this position which is obviously a significant as we continue to face a growing threat. i would like to just explore with you for a moment in the aftermath of the assassination of osama bin laden, how would you describe the al qaeda threat and what it poses today? i know you have said it is significant and it remains the most significant threat to the united states in combination with regional affiliates that were dispersed and as you mentioned it is certainly a dynamic and complex environment and certainly an asymmetrical threat. how to identify, how to quantify. where do you think we stand today in terms of one, mitigating the threat and certainly since the killing of osama bin laden? >> thank you very much senator. the threat i think today is as
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diffuse and as complex and challenging as it is. certainly it is the case that again, through the leaders of congress and the hard work of thousands of men and women both in the intelligence community and the military we have made substantial progress against al qaeda and its affiliates. and the killing of osama bin laden was a significant milestone in that effort. it is clear i think from the threat of information i have seen both beginning in 2004 when i started working with the fbi and my time at the department of justice and my position now the national security agency that al qaeda in many ways is weekend. it remains the case however that it is a more diffused and dispersed threat as he made reference to and in particular i think the concern that the vice chairman made reference to with respect to al qaeda's presence in yemen and in places like somalia makes it particularly
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challenging from a counterterrorism perspective. i think that, in some ways, the opportunity that presents itself now to the counterterrorism community and the united states as well as with their allies around the world is that we must actually redouble our efforts and is the president has said al qaeda is on the path to defeat but we have to look at that thread in all of its various forms not only in the tribal regions of yemen, but in the foxtrot and pakistan and also in parts of north africa. and in somalia. ultimately, the nctc's mission is to stop another terrorist attack and if i may just say that the leadership of mike leiter and an acting capacity of andrew lieb and i think nctc has played a vital role but it is a team approach and we face a challenging at times as we ever have. >> are you confident that we
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have the ability to get no work across the agencies as you obviously to coordinate and integrate all of that analyses? do you think we have got it? >> i think we have made a lot of progress. i do think as this committee and this report on the abdulmutallab attack of december 25, 2008 demonstrated, -- or 2009 that we have, we still face challenges and particularly i reviewed the vice chairman's and senator burmex's separate opinion which was quite critical and appropriate so i think it certainly of nctc. senator if i may say, think the greatest challenge facing nctc is the greatest strength that it brings together analysts, planners and other professionals to bring all these different viewpoints together. how do we reconcile these backgrounds and perspectives?
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that is really its greatest strength. we need to rely on the intelligence committee to provide those professional and provide an environment where they are located together and collaborate. so in direct response to your question i think that is one of the greatest strengths of nctc and i think we have some progress to be made both for his respect to the collaboration feature but also information sharing and breaking down barriers to sharing information not only within nctc but with our partners. >> you mentioned that the greater the capability of al qaeda in pakistan, which how do you compare that threat with respect to the regional affiliates? which is greater? >> it is difficult to answer which is greater. i do agree with the vice-chairman's observation that recent events would suggest that the regional affiliates particularly al qaeda in the arabian peninsula and its presence in yemen have shown a
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willingness and a level of capability to strike in the united states. i think that must be a primary focus. >> do you think that is the single greatest goal of al qaeda, is to strike the united states? is that there are planned? >> it certainly remains a significant goal. its goals are multivariate in the threat and again part of the challenge of that threat is not so much the senior leadership in pakistan with one unified goal. it is now diffusing various regional locations under various leaders and with very as schools, but it is certainly sufficiently a goal that it has to be nctc's number one mission. >> how would you define the strategic defeat of al qaeda leadership? >> the strategic defeat of al qaeda? i think i would define it as ending the threat that al qaeda and all of its affiliates pose
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to the united states and its interests around the world. >> thank you. thank you madam chair. >> thank you very much senator snowe. senator wyden has some additional questions and the vice chairman and i also, so senator wyden why don't you go ahead? >> thank you madam chair and just two additional matters. following up on senator snowe's question, mr. olsen beyond al qaeda's core leadership in pakistan and the al qaeda affiliates in yemen which terrorist group in your view poses the greatest threat to the country? >> i would say that beyond the al qaeda leadership in pakistan, its presence in yemen, probably the next most significant terrorist threat may emanate from the al qaeda presence in somalia. in terms of the willingness and apparent ability or at least the intent to strike outside of that
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particular country. we know that country, that group has successfully mounted an attack in uganda, and the apparent ability of the regional affiliates such as that to outside of the borders that country think poses a significant threat. but the threat goes beyond even just al qaeda of course and its affiliates. to two other groups such as hezbollah. so i think again, i have to say that i am not in a position at nctc now so i approach these types of questions with some humility and some deference to the professionals who are looking at these questions on a daily basis. >> one last question if i might. earlier this year undersecretary colin from the treasury department told the finance committee on which i serve that kuwait has become one of the most challenging countries to deal with when it comes to counterterrorism and in addition
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bad as other gulf states have improved their cooperation with u.s. terrorist activities in the gulf, we are seeing in effect kuwait become more permissive, significantly more permissive. do you have an opinion on this yet? >> my answer senator if i may is somewhat general. i would say our relationships with countries such as kuwait and other gulf states and certainly countries like pakistan are complex and have multiple dimensions. i do think that the counterterrorism effort is a central goal or a central feature of those relationships. if i am confirmed i would look forward to the opportunity and the role of nctc director to provide my objective and my unvarnished view about the counterterrorism threat to contribute to the overall discussion and development of a posture or a country like kuwait. >> thank you madam chair. >> thank you very much. mr. vice chairman why don't you go ahead and i will finish.
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>> mr. olsen i want to ask you, on three or four different subjects here to give us a general discussion and response to some questions that i'm going to lay out, but i am more interested in your general discussion on the issues. but obviously i think the questions will throw out some ideas for you. december 2009, it had become clear that many transferred gitmo detainees had joined the qap in yemen. additionally the icm state department took a dim view of the willingness or capability of the yemeni government to monitor detainees and i believe such assessments were made clear to the task force. yet in late 2009 the task force decided to transfer seven yemeni detainees back to yemen. only one of him was ordered released by the court and his case was not appealed. now, my questions are common
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december 2009 did you personally believe that it was a good idea to transfer detainees to yemen and secondly you told us before that you were trying to test the system by sending a group of detainees back in december of 2009. do you think testing the system when the result of a failed test could be an attack on americans was a good idea? and lastly, in hindsight, in light of the fact that the government is winning all of its habeas appeals would you have changed any of of the task force transfer decisions and do you think dangerous detainees were transferred as a result of the task force process? >> senator, thank you and i do very much understand of force in our conversations both my conversation with you as well as the ongoing discussions i've had with members of the committee staff that the substantial concern about the detainees from yemen and the transfer decisions
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that were made back in 2009. so if i may give you a relatively general, longer answer i would appreciate your indulgence. the yemen dt nabe population was a concern of the task force from the outset. when we started this process under the president's executive order in february 2009 there were 97 yemeni detainees out of the 240 detainees subject to the refusal by far the single largest nationality represented at guantánamo were from yemen. and this was a problem that existed before 2009. in other words prior to 2009, government officials had struggled with how to, how to handle the disposition of the substantial number of yemen detainees. over the course of that year. task force effort, we were very aware of a number of different factors. one, that the situation, the
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security situation in yemen was continuing to deteriorate over the course of that year and by december of 2009, we were quite aware of the concerns that the intelligence community and our military leaders were expressing about yemen. we were also quite aware that our record of success and the habeas court, the number of yemeni detainees as well as others were challenging the lawfulness of the detention, and we were being briefed by the department of justice about how those cases were going. at one point in september 2009 every call that we were approximately eight successful defenses versus 31 losses in the federal courts and there was a real concern being expressed by the department of justice that not only for refusing to cases but we were losing our credibility generally in a way that was affecting facts and legal rulings that might impact the cases down the road. i think the other factor that was a significant one for us with respect to yemen was that
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there were no options that appear to be available in terms of other countries willing to take detainees from yemen, not countries that had rehabilitation programs and not countries in europe that had been taking a number of detainees i think over 50 over the course of the last couple of years, who had humane treatment concerns about eating repatriated to their home country. so i know i have just laid out you a problem that you are well familiar with but those were the factors that were presented to us as we conducted this review. our job on the task force and i felt in my responsibility as the executive director was to provide the best factual information and the most precise, specific and rigorous way possible to decision-makers. we did that over the course of the review. the decision to send seven detainees in december and now i know in a yemeni detainee has been repatriated to yemen, those decisions have all been made at very senior levels in all based on unanimous judgment of six
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representatives of six different agencies including the department of defense, the intelligence committee and the joint chiefs of staff. two of those they detainees were ordered released by the court. i think when i said in our conversation that the six or so that went in december, that number is correct, or before in the fall of 2009 -- i don't member the exact timeframe but the thought there, and i was present for some of the discussions although it wasn't a voting member or decision-maker, the thought was we would never at any time send a significant number of yemeni detainees back. the question was, could the yemeni government and security forces handle the security measures that would be necessary to ensure that those were done, those transfers were handled responsibly. our process had a very strict standard. no detainee would be eligible for transfer unless any threat that detainee posed to be sufficiently mitigated through adequate and appropriate security measures in the host
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country. that standard never changed from the beginning to the end of our task force review and that was the standard that the decision-makers who made the decisions applied. so if i may in some, i think those are very difficult decisions and i want to address your question before i forget. it is true i cited the habeas record of eight and 31. we have done much better from the executive branch's point of view since that time. we have had a number of successful litigation victories in the d.c. circuit, the court of appeals. the question whether not that would have changed our view or the view that the decision-makers on a particular detainee i think is hard to answer and somewhat speculative on my part. i do think that it would have lowered the significance of that factor as it pertained pertains to a particular detainee. so, i suppose i could say it is possible that it may have affected the decision but it
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would be speculative for me to say more about that. >> you mentioned my office with respect to the pressure on the task force that there was pressure in part because the task force was guided by the executive order on closing gitmo. can you explain about how that treasure and how that pressure existed and what you did to try to make sure your decisions were not influenced by that? how many attorneys assigned to the task force had represented detainees before joining your staff and did you feel pressure from any of those attorneys, others the doj or other parts of the administrations to lean towards transferring as many detainees as possible? >> as i mentioned to you senator in our meeting, it certainly was the case that we had an executive order issued in january 2009 and that we were duty bound to follow that
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executive order. that executive order sent forth three potential options for each detainee, transfer of such a transfer could be a calm pushed consistent with the foreign-policy interest of the united states. that was the first option. if transfer was not available, prosecution is feasible and if transfer, neither transfer nor prosecution was an appropriate option and then select another appropriate option undefined in the executive order. i wouldn't necessarily say that was pressure. that was guidance or direction from the president of present of the united states to follow that and i felt my obligation was to ensure that everything that the task force did certainly follow that direction but did not respond to any of what was obvious at the time, controversy from both sides about guantánamo. it has been a subject of controversy for many years. i felt it was my obligation to insulate the career professionals who worked on this
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review. over the course of the year in 2009 over 100 people worked on this review from the department of defense, from the intelligence community, cia, nctc, homeland security, state, justice and every single one of them was a career individual. in response to your court question i don't believe a single one of the attorneys who worked on the review had ever played a role in representing detainees. i know that it's been is the subject of controversy and has been reported in the press in the past. with respect to other justice department attorneys i don't believe anyone on our task force have ever worked in that capacity. everyone who worked on my review came from the career ranks. as i said i felt that was it was my responsibility to insulate that group from any of the types of controversy surrounding guantánamo and i think i may senator say the results of the review, the recommendation and
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the analysis we did resulting in the unanimous decision of 240 detainees speak for themselves in this regard. out of those 240 detainees there were 126 transferred but there were also 48 decisions to hold those detainees under the laws of war. when we started the review in january 2009 that was not necessarily considered an option. we push for that as the right option for 48 detainees that they could not be tried and there was not evidence to try them. they could not be transferred safely and they needed to be held indefinitely under the laws of 48 of those detainees. edition 36 detainees referred either to the military commission or the federal courts for prosecution, 36 in that category and dirty yemeni detainees of conditional the attention. those 30 detainees, the decision was that they would not be transferred. they would be detained until the security situation in yemen substantially improved,
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something that obviously has not happened. said they are effectively in the same category as the 48 held under the law before. >> the chairman and i'd love are very concerned about the fact that we currently have no detention and interrogation policy going forward with respect to individuals who may be captured, high-value targets that may be captured outside of afghanistan. as director of nctc, you will be integrally involved in deliberations relative to any proposal for a long-term plan on detention and interrogation and my question to you is, are you prepared to give sound advice, number one, that you are going to be asked to give and secondly, if the administration appears to be headed down a road that you don't think is the right direction to go, will you
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say to this committee now that you are going to express yourself in a very strong manner to help to try to develop the best possible policy for detention and interrogation of high-value targets even though your opinion may be contrary to the folks at the white house who are nominating you today? >> yes, absolutely and if i may, i do make that pledge. i think in my prior position, i had taken a position. in other words i have given advice in an unvarnished, objective independent way as a career government official. i've made known my personal views and sought to move positions based on my objective and independent and nonpolitical perspective. i do think that these questions senator, if i may say, some of these questions are the most difficult ones that they face we face from a counterterrorism perspective. the question of detention
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policy, i absolutely agree that it would be my responsibility if i'm honored to be confirmed to get my unvarnished and objective views and share the intelligence with this committee and advocate for what i believe is the right thing to the best of my abilities within the executive branch. >> you some would argue that gitmo should be close because it is used as a recruiting tool for al qaeda and that may be true but yet, al qaeda uses a policy with the death of bin laden and a host of other issues as recruiting tools and no one suggested we should change these policies. in your current position or positions you have held, have you seen any evidence that we are safer or that recruits have fallen off as a result of the president's announcement of his attempt to close guantánamo? >> i have not seen, from again, my perspective both on the task force and much more limited perspective in my credit role as
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security agency, anything specific in response to your question to that effect. there is a change in recruiting based on the current government. >> lastly, let me tell you an issue that we have got that i know you are aware about and get your thoughts on it. in the past nctc has raised a number of concerns about not having access to all the intelligence information it needs. of particular concern is access to information and the department of homeland security. generally dhs is reluctant to provide information relating to an individual's asylum or refugee status on the grounds assuring that information would violate u.s. personal restrictions. the specific legal basis for dhs think --'s position is unclear. giovanni thoughts on how we can address that trouble him with dhs and our asylum seekers, u.s. persons are considered u.s.
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persons? is that an issue in your mind? >> senator i am generally familiar with this area or this issue. i don't have the specifics of that particular concern with dhs. i've had some briefings about this question. if i may say, i do believe that given my role at the department of justice, and my role now, that i have both an understanding, actually a deep understanding of the rules that apply to protect civil liberties and privacy of u.s. persons but i also i think have a very strong view and a record of finding the appropriate ways to overcome legal, sometimes perceived legal as well as a policy barriers to sharing information. i don't believe that there is a strong basis for, as a policy matter, not allowing information to be shared when that
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information is necessary to protect the mega-people and if i am honored to be confirmed it will absolutely be my commitment to find a way to overcome expressed concerns about sharing information when that information is necessary to subport and ctc's mission and that is to prevent another terrorist attack. so certainly you have my commitment to look very heart of that question. >> as you and i discussed in my office the critical role that nctc plays is for the most part centered around information sharing, and it is a requirement that u.s. director of nctc share information you have that you have got to get the information first. and let me just say that the chairman and i without question read it to make sure you have all the tools that you need and from a policy standpoint we are prepared to do what is necessary to make sure that the information that you have to be
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shared is all of the intelligence information. and let me just close by saying that as the chairman stated, we have gotten inundated with letters of recommendation which you should feel very honored to be supported in that respect. i know you are. letter from general alexander was very calm mentoring and not only did he write a letter, but he happens to be a good friend and a guy that i have the utmost respect for. he called yesterday to reinforce that recommendation and because i have such respect for general alexander, that means a lot. so, we will look forward to moving down the road and the only thing i would remind you of to get us the names of those individuals in that raving and
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hopefully we will get this nomination move through quickly. madam chair, thank you. >> thank you very much. you know i would like to close off the briefing. i cannot imagine a more thankless task then being director of the policy committee of which you were director, because you know, no matter what, it is thankless and no matter what there is going to be criticism and particularly in those days as i recall them, where it was so very very difficult. so i just want to thank you for that and in my book, you are a straight shooter and i think that is what matters here. i would like to just talk about the vision thing for a moment, if i might. one of nctc's statutory responsibilities is to conduct strategic operational planning for counterterrorism at two goodies and integrate all of the instruments of national power.
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however, when it granted nctc this responsibility, congress didn't provide you with any authority to compel action in these areas so we may have to go back and look at that again. five, the question is, what is your vision of nctc's role in conducting strategic operational planning for counterterrorism activities and integrating all the instruments of national so-called power into that planning? >> thank you very much senator. so as you point out, one of the critical missions of nctc is the strategic operational planning mission. i do believe that nctc is uniquely positioned to conduct that mission and my vision for that is consistent with i think the effort in the progress that nctc has made in that regard over the last couple of years. that is, bringing together the various represented entities,
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whether it is the military or intelligence community, combining those perspectives and those perspectives, in a way that will allow us to make sure that the efforts that the u.s. government is undertaking to combat terrorism, whether it is on a regional level focusing on a particular region or a pretty or problem such as or if particular topic such as counter violent extremism, conducting and all of government approach to address those issues. something that nctc is i think as i said uniquely positioned to do both because it has members from all these different age as he's brought together and because it has the mission granted to it by congress. so i would consider that to be one of the focus focuses that i would have and i would also commit and i would not hesitate to return to this committee with updates on that effort and to
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tell you if i think that there are authorities that are lacking that are necessary. >> good. you are also the national intelligence manager for counterterrorism, and in that regard you are going to be responsible for evaluating the intelligence communities performance on terrorism and recommending budget allocations across agencies. in my book, this is a very important job. how do you see yourself carrying this part of your responsibility out? >> thank you for that question. i have had an opportunity to talk alyce briefly with director clapper about this very important role particularly under the leadership that he has for odni and the intelligence community in general. i think that nctc has done a good job in its role. it is i think a real focus because of the challenges that we face.
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>> it i don't particularly like bad acronym. >> it's not my favorite either. >> this is a big deal. in i don't dig it should be trivialized and i think it is one area where there is not enough done that there is not enough central administration of budget authority. >> ride, so i will stick with national intelligence manager. and, i think the challenge is that we do face a much more difficult vegetarian byram and then we did in the last few years and i fully appreciate that reality. i've seen it in my role at nsa where i have been part of the senior leadership meetings about how nsa is going to react and respond to the budget constraints that we are likely to face, that we will face. the question will be, how do we make sure that we are focusing on the right priorities as a community and how do we achieve efficiencies where we can in
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order to meet the challenge that the current budget environment proposes? >> well, you see, from my point of view counterterrorism is extraordinarily important. is vital to the protection of the homeland. therefore having a strategy and an approach to it and a pattern and a practice that is well-established and carried out across the government is very very vital to have. candidly, i don't know whether we have that today, and so this question is meant with a view that i think it is really it ryan mission of yours. >> i appreciate that and again i will make for that reason, make that a prime mission of mind and will again commit to come back and talk to you and the committee and the staff and keep you apprised as often as necessary on the progress we are
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making. >> alright. one last thing. as you know the defense bill had some language on the tension in it, some of which is good and some of which we think is not good. week, you know as chairman of the committee, retrying to draft some legislation. i would like to ask that you help us and work with us on that if you will. >> course i will, yes. >> thank you very much. i see no other member, so we would like to have the director of the nctc in place actually before going on the august recess. and i really think this is a very important matter that we are able to do that. so i would like to ask that any questions for the record be submitted by 5:00 on wednesday. that is tomorrow afternoon. so we can get answers and vote on the nomination just as soon as possible. we do not want to leave this
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agency leaderless. i thank you for your service to our country. i hope -- i have been watching the faces of your three children and your wife's supervision in her eyes. [laughter] as this hearing has gone on, and i just want you three to know how very proud we are of your father, that he has been just of enormous service to this country and has much more yet to do and i hope you are very proud as well. so, with that in mind, we will conclude this hearing and move your nomination onward. thank you very much. [inaudible conversations]
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[inaudible conversations]
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Today in Washington
CSPAN July 27, 2011 6:00am-7:00am EDT

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TOPIC FREQUENCY Yemen 16, United States 9, Nctc 8, U.s. 7, Pakistan 6, Us 6, Al Qaeda 3, Mr. Olsen 3, Somalia 3, Lastly 2, Snowe 2, Alexander 2, Wyden 2, Kuwait 2, Giovanni 1, Gitmo 1, Mike Leiter 1, Burmex 1, Colin 1, Lieb 1
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